Hernandez, Nationals Don't Miss a Beat
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
PITTSBURGH, June 20 -- Admittedly, adrenaline was still pumping through Eddie Rodriguez's body from early in the afternoon until 20 minutes after the game ended. "I felt it then," he said, "and I feel it now."
Rodriguez, though, might have been the only man wearing a Washington Nationals uniform to feel that way Monday night, because this was as sure a thing as there is in baseball. Despite the fact that Manager Frank Robinson -- serving a one-game suspension for last week's episode in Anaheim, Calif. -- looked on from the stands, and despite the fact that Rodriguez, the club's bench coach, took over managing duties, the Nationals received precisely the ingredients they need from precisely the players they expect to deliver in a 7-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The first ingredient: right-hander Livan Hernandez, who threw seven innings, allowed two earned runs and yielded eight hits, all singles, to become just the third 10-game winner in the National League. Next up: two home runs from right fielder Jose Guillen, who sparked an offense that ripped out 12 hits.
Those two players helped Rodriguez's heart stop pounding a bit. But the final, most important aspect, came in the fourth inning, when Brad Wilkerson poked a two-out, two-run single to the opposite field, giving the Nationals a 5-1 lead. That play could easily be buried in all the activity of the day -- Hernandez's performance, Guillen's 12th and 13th homers, Robinson sitting out, the Nationals increasing their lead in the NL East to three games over idle Philadelphia.
Yet look at the Nationals' entire season. They have now scored five or more runs 26 times. Their record in those games: 25-1.
"It shows you we're not scoring eight and giving up 10," said catcher Brian Schneider, who chipped in with three hits. "It shows you how many quality starts that we're getting from our pitchers. I mean, whoa. It's an amazing stat."
Guillen added to the advantage -- and scored the final run off Pittsburgh starter Mark Redman -- with his second homer of the day to center field, making it his third multi-homer game of the year. The 6-1 lead allowed Rodriguez, who had more than a little extra pep in his step when he found out he would manage, to relax a bit more in the dugout and just run the game.
"I think it makes it easy for any manager in that situation when you have a 6-1 lead," Rodriguez said. "You kind of tend to manage the game, but at an easier pace."
Robinson's day never picked up pace. He was originally suspended for one game on Friday following Tuesday's run-in with Anaheim Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, a heated exchange that resulted in both benches clearing. But Robinson wanted a chance to be heard, and while there is no formal appeals process for managers, baseball officials granted him a 25-minute teleconference at noon Monday. The suspension was upheld, and Robinson remained in brown slacks and a button-down shirt.
"They expect more from the managers of the ballclubs -- that's the way they put it," Robinson said prior to the game. "That's what I couldn't accept and won't accept and will never accept, is why the penalties were the same."
Scioscia served his suspension Friday. Both managers were fined $1,000. The hearing involved MLB Executive Vice President John McHale, Vice President for On-field Operations Bob Watson, Robinson and Nationals assistant general manager Tony Siegle. Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Watson referred questions to McHale, who handled the case. McHale did not return a phone message Monday.
So how did Robinson handle things, watching his club among the 21,893 on hand at PNC Park?